Georgia is situated in a highly disaster-prone region that frequently experiences earthquakes, floods, droughts, landslides, rock falls, avalanches, mudflows and windstorms. The immediate impact of disasters is primarily noticed in the affected communities, but the cumulative effect for the country is significant.
Since independence in 1991, Georgia has gone through periods of civil war and unrest, as well as violence related to the separatist conflicts in the country’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions. These regions declared independence from Georgia during a war in the 1990s. Only a few countries have recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as sovereign States. In August 2008, tension between Georgia and Russia turned into an intense, short military conflict that resulted in a new wave of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and added to an already displaced population of approximately 230,000 people who were uprooted by conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia in the early 1990s. As of January 2012, there were 274,000 IDPs, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Within four days of the 2008 conflict, OCHA opened an office in Tbilisi to support the United Nations Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator (RC/HC). The office supported RC/HC advocacy for humanitarian access to South Ossetia, while OCHA’s presence in Gori–on the border with South Ossetia–ensured better coordination of humanitarian activities. OCHA noticeably improved the overall response, especially in information management and inter-cluster coordination. A Flash Appeal was immediately issued to support winterization programmes, food assistance, health care, protection (including child protection) and other forms of humanitarian assistance. A revised Flash Appeal issued in October 2008 called for $115 million. In May 2009, as the immediate humanitarian needs were addressed, OCHA wrapped up its presence in Georgia.
In 2011, ROCCA assumed a monitoring role in the Caucasus, and in 2012 the office continued fruitful collaboration with the extended UN Disaster Management Team (UN agencies and NGOs) – the in-country international mechanism for emergency preparedness and response coordination. ROCCA has facilitated an inter-agency contingency planning process and related follow-up activities in order to better plan and coordinate disaster preparedness initiatives.